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Alekoko "Menehune" fishpond
Menehune bank from 1946. Made for Bank of Hawaii as a promotional giveaway to encourage island children to save their pennies.

Menehune are a mythological race of dwarf people in Hawaiian tradition who are said to live in the deep forests and hidden valleys of the Hawaiian Islands, hidden and far away from human settlements.

The Menehune are described as superb craftspeople. They built temples (heiau), fishponds, roads, canoes, and houses. Some of these structures that Hawaiian folklore attributed to the Menehune still exist. They are said to have lived in Hawaiʻi before settlers arrived from Polynesia many centuries ago. Their favorite food is the maiʻa (banana), and they also like fish. Legend has it that the Menehune will only appear during night hours, in order to build masterpieces. But if they fail to complete their work in the length of the night, they will leave it unoccupied. No one but their children and humans connected to them are able to see the Menehune.[1]


In Martha Warren Beckwith's Hawaiian Mythology, there are references to several other forest dwelling races: the Nawao, who were large-sized wild hunters descended from Lua-nuʻu, the mu people, and the wa people.[2]

Some early scholars hypothesized that there was a first settlement of Hawaiʻi, by settlers from the Marquesas Islands, and a second, from Tahiti. The Tahitian settlers oppressed the "commoners", the manahune in the Tahitian language, who fled to the mountains and were called Menahune. Proponents of this hypothesis point to an 1820 census of Kauaʻi by Kaumualiʻi, the ruling aliʻi aimoku of the island, which listed 65 people as menehune.[3]

Folklorist Katharine Luomala believes that the legends of the Menehune are a post-European contact mythology created by adaptation of the term manahune (which by the time of the colonization of the Hawaiian Islands by Europeans had acquired a meaning of "lowly people" or "low social status" and not diminutive in stature) to European legends of brownies.[4] It is claimed that "Menehune" are not mentioned in pre-contact mythology, although this is unproven since it was clearly an oral mythology; the legendary "overnight" creation of the Alekoko fishpond, for example, finds its equivalent in the legend[5] about the creation of a corresponding structure on Oʻahu, which was supposedly indeed completed in a single day — not by menehune but, as a show of power, by a local aliʻi who commanded every one of his subjects appear at the construction site and assist in building.

Structures attributed to the Menehune[edit]

Menehune statue

Other uses[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Thrum, Thos (1907). Hawaiian Folk Tales. A. C. McClurg & Company. p. 34. A.C. McClurg.
  2. ^ Beckwith 1970, pp. 321-323
  3. ^ Joesting 1987, pp. 20-22
  4. ^ Luomala 1951
  5. ^ Nordhoff 1874
  6. ^ B. Jean Martin (September 29, 1971). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Menehune Fishpond / Alekoko Fishpond". National Park Service.
  7. ^ "Hoʻihoʻi Kulana Wahi pana - Restoring Sacred Places" (PDF). brochure published by Kamehameha Investment Corporation. 2008. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2008-09-05. Retrieved 2009-10-20.
  8. ^ "United Airlines Menehune". Retrieved 2013-09-27.
  9. ^ Jón Árnason; George E. J. Powell; Eiríkur Magnússon (1866). "Introductory Essay". Icelandic Legends, Volume 2. London: Richard Bentley. pp. xlii–lvi. Retrieved 20 June 2010.


  • Beckwith, Martha (1970). Hawaiian Mythology. University of Hawaii Press.
  • Joesting, Edward (1987) [1984]. Kauaʻi, The Separate Kingdom. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaiʻi Press and Kauaʻi Museum Association. ISBN 0-8248-1162-3.
  • Luomala, Katharine (1951): "The Menehune of Polynesia and Other Mythical Little People of Oceania". Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin Vol. 203; Kraus Reprint, Millwood, N.Y., 1986
  • Nordhoff, Charles (1874): Northern California, Oregon and the Sandwich Islands, Chapter V, p. 80: "The Hawaiian at Home: Manners and Customs". Sampson Low, Marston, Low & Searle, London; available free online at [1]
  • Nordyke, Eleanor C. (1989). The Peopling of Hawaiʻi. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-1191-7.
  • Schmitt, Robert C., "Early Hawaiian Statistics," The American Statistician, Vol. 35, No. 1, pages 1–3, February, 1981; [2] (Retrieved on 2008-02-16)

External links[edit]